Leaders have always faced the same common challenges, but the ways to overcome those challenges will inevitably continue to change over time. One generation is always retiring as a new one enters the workforce, requiring leaders to be creative and take new approaches to solving familiar problems. Here are five common challenges leaders face while managing today’s workforce and effective strategies to conquer them.
1. Adjusting To The Manager Role
Even non-sports fans know that Michael Jordan was one of greatest basketball players ever. However, this did not translate to Jordan being a great team owner or general manager. It was a struggle to say the least. Being a manager requires a vastly different set of skills than the positions that are being managed. Today’s leaders have to be both great learners and great listeners. Effective leaders know the common challenges of the positions they manage, but are also willing to listen to employees and learn how to best help them meet their individual goals and increase their productivity.
2. Gaining Buy-In
Whether a leader is new to their position or just bringing in new talent, gaining buy-in is a persistent challenge. The fastest way to gain buy-in is by establishing credibility. This involves being open and honest with employees, and sharing relevant past experiences that relate to current decision-making. This might sound tedious, but if a leader begins by providing reasoning, soon they will no longer have to because of the trust and confidence established at the start. Being present and available to staff is especially important with those new to the workforce.
3. Finding The Appropriate Amount Of Management
The appropriate amount of management depends heavily on the people being managed. This means that a leader’s management style might need to evolve, as current employees leave and new hires arrive. Today’s managers need to be flexible and willing to play to the strengths of their employees. Some employees will perform best when given autonomy and ownership to creatively solve common challenges and accomplish tasks. Others will require more oversight to maintain focus. In either case, it is extremely important to set crystal clear expectations for what is required from each employee. A leader’s success is measured by the success of the individuals they lead, making a flexible, balanced approach to providing support vital to maximizing results.
4. Giving Feedback
Feedback is challenging because it takes a variety of tones and forms while serving different functions. Let’s start with criticism. It may be the least fun form of feedback to deliver, but it is absolutely necessary. Winston Churchill said, “It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Yes, criticism inherently points out the negative, but there cannot be change and growth without it. The opportunity to take corrective action and become a more skilled and more productive employee is exactly how criticism should be framed to make it constructive. Humiliating an employee is never an effective way to change behavior.
Because of the importance of criticism and negative feedback, it is easy for leaders to forget about positive feedback. Recognition is crucial to today’s younger workforce and creating a positive work environment. Recognition is contagious and peer recognition programs are on the rise. Today’s leaders can even use technology to serve this purpose and solve common challenges. Yes, there is literally an app for that. Positive feedback reminds employees that managers are aware of successes and appreciative of effort. A positive work environment is a productive work environment.
5. Handling Difficult Employees
Where there is a manager, there will be at least one difficult employee. It is an unavoidable law of human nature. Difficult employees take many forms. There is the employee who ignores directions, the employee who doesn’t play well with others, the kind, but unproductive employee, and the employee who does okay, but you know has the potential to do so much more. No matter what the issue is, from an HR perspective, it is important to start by documenting everything.
Today’s managers have to know what has been said and done, and how the organization has previously responded. This is not just to build a case against an employee in a worst case scenario where someone needs to be let go. This helps managers to see the situation from the employee’s perspective, which will help them create a personalized plan to address and correct the issue. Difficult employees require managers to do almost everything in the common challenges above. These situations require leaders to listen, set expectations, provide an appropriate amount of guidance and give constructive feedback.
These are not the only common challenges that leaders face in the modern workplace, but learning the skills required to address these five issues will help prepare you for anything that might come your way. At HJR Global, we collaborate with leaders like you to create financing plans that will fit your individual business needs. Contact us to learn how we can help you overcome challenges and grow your business.
To read more from HJR Global, check out our previous blog post.